Like it or not, the Women Against Feminism tumblr is a real thing in the world. And all over the internet feminists are wondering were we could have gone so wrong that young women are so happily and publicly turning their backs on the very thing that actually ensured their right to express their opinions in public.
Because the women on this blog who so earnestly outline exactly why they “don’t need feminism” seem so very young, I can’t quite muster the energy to feel outraged. I understand that for many, their perspective on feminism has been skewed by a noisy men’s rights movement that equates feminism with man-hating, and a click-bait driven media that finds it amusing to pit women against each other by challenging young celebrities to prove their commitment to the sisterhood.
While I am sad, both for these young women, and for the movement that has fought so hard for them for so long, my overriding thought while scrolling through the blog was the way virtually every single post indicated how much these women actually need feminism. Like, really, really need it. Here are five pictures that prove it.
1. The animosity towards “sluts” is a disturbingly recurring theme in Women Against Feminism. Not only does this particular example fundamentally misunderstand the reasons women have abortions (six in 10 US women who terminate their pregnancy are already mothers) but I’m positive there is no clearer advertisement of the need for feminism than the fact that young women are still prepared to demonise other women for their sexual choices. Someone really needs to let these young women know that “slut” is an arbitrary insult that, in reality, has very little to do with sex, and more to do with keeping women down (as this young woman demonstrates), and could just as easily be used against them regardless of their sexual activity - or lack thereof.
And who better to do that than a feminist?
2. Fighting for the right of women to kill and be killed in the military has never been on the top of my to-do list in the struggle for women’s rights. And I know that some feminists are flat out against it. But that doesn’t change the fact that feminism was instrumental in opening up the military to women in the 1970s (along with, you know, all the other workplaces where they were not permitted), and in lifting the prohibition against women in combat roles (in the US where this picture originates) removed in 2013. Now, I have no doubt that, as this woman claims, she has the “medals” to prove her strength. But she then she never would have been given an opportunity to prove herself if not for feminism. (Sidenote: perhaps someone might gently let her know that feminists will always have her back as they continue to bring the hold the military to account for its shocking record on sexual assault.)
Do you, or does a woman you love serve in the military? Thank a feminist.
3. It’s clear to me that the masterminds behind this blog have no idea what “patriarchy” means, even as they inadvertently perpetuate it. Let’s leave aside the pesky little fact that the very reason women do have more legal rights in western countries such as Australia and the US because that is where the feminist movement has been the successful, and focus instead on the ways patriarchy works to undermine these very rights.
Women may have same the legal rights but they suffer far more discrimination. Resumes with female names attached are less likely to be granted a job interview. Women are still underpaid, and less likely to be promoted. Out of the workplace, they are more likely to be domestic violence victims, and rape victims, and infinitely more likely to be blamed for their own sexual assault as judges, journalists, and the public alike sympathise with their rapists.
Equal rights in law do not necessarily translate to equal rights in practice. Many legal barriers may have been removed thanks to feminists but structural and social barriers remain. And this is why women need feminism.
Don’t worry, young ladies, we’ll smash the patriarchy for you, even though you refuse to see it.
4. Ah, the good old, my-hitherto-personal-good-fortune-means-no-one-with-whom-I-share physical-characteristics-is-oppressed-either argument.
Of course, the plural of “anecdote” is not “data” and this young woman is clearly blind to the struggle of others. Moreover, it is precisely this false sense of security that leaves many women vulnerable and without knowing where to turn when in need because, although things may be going well right now, for women that can all be taken away at any moment.
As Amanda Marcotte writes, merely saying you are not oppressed does not create “an imaginary force field around you to prevent violence” and other oppression. It’s not like you can, “Just say you’re already equal, and boom! Magically, you are. Say that women are not targeted for violence and boom! Magically, all those rape victims disappear.”
But this young woman may want to keep in mind that it always was and always will be feminists who set up crisis centres for rape victims, and women’s shelters for domestic violence victims. It’s feminists who continue to keep equal pay on the agenda and feminists who keep fighting for the day every woman can truthfully say “I am not oppressed.”
5. Not to be blithe but, too late mate. You may not want to politicise your gender but that doesn’t mean you can stop others from doing so. Women’s bodies have been a battleground for politicians since well before the days that suffragettes handcuffed themselves to the gates of government buildings.
And nowhere has our gender been more politicised than in the current relentless assault on women’s reproductive autonomy. Let’s be clear here. Feminists didn’t ask for this fight. We don’t want politicians to use our uteruses as bargaining chips, and we definitely don’t want to be fighting for access to abortion more than four decades after women’s liberation became a household phrase.
But the widespread restrictions on abortion access, contraceptive healthcare in America, and the frequent attempts to undermine our own hard-won reproductive rights here in Australia means that we have no choice but to keep feminism in the political spotlight.
Because feminists know the second we get complacent about our rights, they will be taken away.